“AP” I yell.


Krause removes an armor piercing shell from the wicker basket, handing it to Fuchs, the loader.


Fuchs places the AP round gently within the open breach on our Pak-36 anti-tank gun.


Pohl closes the breach, making the gun ready.


We’re dug in, and loaded, for the inevitable French counter-attack.


“Now we wait” I tell my men, as we scan through the town, and up the lane on the right.


Armor crews rush to their idling tanks, all lined up in a column up the narrow lane in the small village of Stonne.


Small French houses bracket each tank in the line.


Those could be my house. This could be Boppard, where mom is now. What if the French offensive had broken through the Sigfried Line last year, advancing all the way through Boppard? What if mom had been in a house surrounded by French tanks?


Damn those French tanks!


Just as I think about French tanks, a Char-B1 appears up the road, on the edge of this small French town.


The moment I notice it, it fires two shots; one from it’s 47 mm turret gun, and the other from its hull-mounted 75 mm gun.


He was ready!


Instantly the first and last tanks in the column lined up on that narrow street burst into flames.


Get him, Get him!


“Prepare to fire at that Char-B if he comes within range” I calmly tell my crew.


We all stare in amazement as the French tank moves forward, rapidly firing both guns at the line of German tanks.


The German tanks fire back, all nine left in operation are pounding the French tank with everything they can throw at it.


Nothing is penetrating!


That thing is a beast!


The Char-B keeps coming, knocking down tank after tank in the German column.


Four German tanks are burning as they are pushed aside by the oncoming French monster.


“In Range!” Vogt screams above the sound of more shells firing and the eruption of our compatriots flammable armored vehicles.


“Fire!” I scream back.


At this range we’re just knocking on the door.


“AP” I yell, starting the loading process for my AT gun all over again.


The French tank simply continues forward, impervious to all the steel thrown at it.


Krause removes an armor piercing shell from the wicker basket, handing it to Fuchs, the loader.


Our shell quietly disappears into the Char’s armor, with no discernible result.


Fuchs places the AP round gently within the open breach.


Pohl closes the breach, making the gun ready.


The French tank is closer now.


May this round find its way home!


“Fire!” I scream, yet again launching an armor piercing shell at the French Char-B.


Another two Panzers explode as the Char-B thrusts its way through the small town.


“AP” I yell, repeating the loading process.


The French tank continues forward so it is now only a few hundred meters away.


Again, the shell is absorbed in the French tank’s thick armor, with no result.


It’s as if that thing is swallowing our steel, then spitting it back out at our tanks as it goes.


Krause removes an armor piercing shell from the wicker basket, handing it to Fuchs, the loader.


Fuchs places the AP round gently within the open breach.


Pohl closes the breach, making the gun ready.


Our tanks rapidly fire at the onrushing French machine, but their shots are as effective as my own.


Another two Panzers explode.


How many are dying from this one French Char-B?


I sure hope he’s alone!


“AP” I yell, hoping the closing range will help my rounds penetrate.


Krause slowly removes an armor piercing shell from the wicker basket, as he stares at the oncoming French beast.


Fuchs reaches out, taking the shell from Krause.


Their faces are solid with fear.


Is my face expressing the same thing?


That monster is under 100 meters away, and still coming strong.


“Stay focused on your duty.” I remind my crew.


Their faces turn back to their work.


Fuchs places the AP round gently within the open breach.


Pohl sternly closes the breach, prepping the gun.


“Fire!” I yell just as two more Panzers blow up.


That’s the last of our tanks.


Now it’s up to us.


The French tank dashes toward us.


Our last round ricocheting off the front armor plate.


We’re useless against this behemoth!


As he closes range we should penetrate.


We should!


“AP” I scream, knowing this will be our last round before he’s on us.


The French tank’s machine gun opens up on us, spitting rounds all around our position.


This is it!


Krause gingerly removes an armor piercing shell from the wicker basket, while his body trembles.


“Krause, stay with us.”


A round smashes through Krause’s left leg, crumpling him just as he hands the round to Fuchs, whose face is pale white.


“This is our chance to knock it down, load up Fuchs!” I scream.


Fuchs automatically places the round in the breach, which Pohl snaps shut.


They are breaking!


“Medic! Medic!” Fuchs screams, hoping to help Krause.


Am I breaking?


“Fire!” I scream, as I stare down the on-rushing French monster.


“NOTHING!” I holler before realizing anything slipped out.


Krause is whithering in agony on the ground with Fuchs over him.


We’re no longer an operational unit.




I’m blown away from my gun.


Darkness surrounds my small area of remaining site.


That Monster bit me too!


Looking back toward where my gun had been set-up, I see Pohl dangling over the destroyed breach.


I can’t see Fuchs or Krause anywhere.


The French tank has already turned, making its way up the small lane to our right.


Hopefully the other Pak-36 over there can find a way to penetrate his armor.


My eyes go dark.


My world goes quiet.


My mind goes still.




On May 16, 1940 a single French B1 bis named “Eure” and commanded by Captain Bilotte forced its way into the town of Stonne. Hotly contested, Stonne switched sides 17 times over the course of the German invasion of France. Captain Bilotte’s Eure attacked a German column from Panzer Regiment 8, destroying 2 Panzer IV and 11 Panzer III tanks, along with 2 Pack 36 anti-tank guns. After his successful assault, Captain Billotte turned around, heading back out of the village. His tank had endured 140 shell impacts, all of which failed to penetrate the thick armor of this massive beast of a machine. After the battle Bilotte was nicknamed “The Butcher of Stonne.”


Contrary to popular opinion, even though France eventually fell to the German onslaught, the French put up a heck of a fight with some advanced and awesomely powerful equipment. Poor communication, tactics, and strategic leadership, as well as operational plans and some good German luck led to France’s defeat. It wasn’t their ability to inflict heavy losses on the Germans which caused them to fall.


Today Captain Bilotte’s Eure can be seen in the center of Stonne. His name is also given to an award in the game “World of Tanks” in which the player destroys a large number of enemy vehicles quickly. Pierre Armand Gaston Bilotte went on to serve as a military attache, a division commander, the head of France’s military mission to the United Nations, and eventually Minister of National Defense.





If you like what you've read here, please consider buying

Threads of The War, Volume IV.